+
upworthy
Science

The winners of the Underwater Photographer of the Year contest were announced and they are incredible

From rare river dolphins to abandoned aircrafts, there's an entire world to explore just below the water's surface.

underwater photography
Kat Zhou/UPY 2023 (USA), Shane Gross/UPY 2023 (Canada)

There's an entire universe down there.

Space might be considered the final frontier, but right here on planet Earth, entire universes remain unexplored beneath the water’s surface.

Every year, the prestigious Underwater Photographer of the Year contest highlights stunning images from all over the world that offer a small glimpse into this mysterious world, reminding us of its breathtaking beauty, fascinating wildlife and—perhaps most important of all—the need to respect and care for its resources.

American photographer Kat Zhou won the title for 2023. (Technically, she also won Up & Coming Photographer of the Year—way to go, Zhou.) Her image of a rare Amazon river dolphin, captured at the perfect moment of smiling while poking its nose out from under the water, rose to the top in a sea of 6,000 entries. Due to river contamination and being killed or injured by fishermen, the species is listed as vulnerable in certain areas by the World Wildlife Organization, making this apparently happy interaction all the more impactful.

As judge Alex Mustard wrote, “In dark, tannic waters, Kat has created a striking composition capturing this rarely photographed and vulnerable species at the perfect moment…By far the best image we've ever seen of this species.”

Zhou also explained the river dolphin’s folklore in her entry.


Underwater Photographer of the Year 2023 Winner: “Boto Encantado” by Kat Zhou (USA)

Brazilian Amazon

river dolphin

“Boto Encantado” by Kat Zhou

Kat Zhou/UPY 2023 (USA)

“There’s a legend among locals in the Amazon that river dolphins, or 'botos,' can transform into handsome men known as 'boto encantado' at night to seduce women. Though I did not witness this elusive boto transformation, at dusk I was enchanted by these beautiful mammals in a different way. After seeing how botos would sometimes bring their beaks above water, I knew I want a split shot at sunset. Though the water was so dark that I was shooting blind, this dolphin gave me a perfect pose and smile!

As indigenous communities settled by rivers in the Amazon, river dolphins began living in closer proximity to human populations, even making use of food scraps. Frequent dolphin sightings led to tales like boto encantado, but there’s a darker side to the legend, as it was often used to excuse pregnancies after women were assaulted or forced into prostitution. While botos are generally revered as mythical creatures, many scorned husbands have killed dolphins because of these stories. Furthermore, many river dolphins have also been killed for use as fish bait. Though there have been bans on this practice, it has not been eradicated. With this, alongside even bigger impacts like mercury poisoning due to the gold mining industry and large development projects that have disrupted the river ecosystems, I fear that one day botos will truly become no more than mythical creatures.” – Kat Zhou

Take a look below at the winners from other categories:

Wide Angle Winner: “Fade” by J. Gregory Sherman (USA)

Stingray City, Cayman Islands

stingrays

“Fade” by J. Gregory Sherman

J. Gregory Sherman/UPY 2023 (USA)

“My dive partner and I chartered a boat to arrive at Stingray City on Grand Cayman before dawn so as to capture the morning light and undisturbed sand ripples. Just as the sun broke the horizon, a line of southern stingrays headed straight for me and I captured this image as they glided across the sand. Using a large dome port allowed me to create a split image showing the intensely colorful dawn sky contrasted against the nearly monochromatic stingrays and sand beneath the surface chop.” – Gregory Sherman

Wrecks Winner: “Engine with a Saddle” by Brett Eldridge (USA)

Point Loma, California

wrecked planes

“Engine with a Saddle” by Brett Eldridge

Brett Eldridge/UPY 2023 (United States)

“We were out scanning targets in June when we saw a very small, but promising sonar blip 230 feet deep. I geared up and jumped in hoping for something special. After some searching, my heart started racing when I first saw fish then the propeller of an almost completely intact, single-engine WW II airplane! It turned out to be a F8F-1 Bearcat, a rare aircraft that Neil Armstrong famously once said was his favorite and has been described as 'An Engine With a Saddle.' Alone on the first dive with limited bottom time, I took enough photos to build a 'draft' model and identify the wreck. Needing a better photogrammetry model for the UPY contest and with deadlines quickly approaching, I booked December 19th and crossed my fingers. We fortunately had epic conditions and I got the photos I needed. It was my last dive of 2022.” – Brett Eldridge

Behavior Winner: “Make Love Not War” by Yury Ivanov (Indonesia)

Tulamben, Bali

octopus

“Make Love Not War” by Yury Ivanov

Yury Ivanov/UPY 2023 (Indonesia)

“A couple of coconut octopuses 'making love' (mating). I knew that I can find this species of Octopus at one of dive sites near Tulamben village (Bali, Indonesia) and they are active only at night time in that place. I dive there only after 7pm hoping to photograph something unique – their mating. I've done more than 30 night dives at the dive site and finally I got lucky. The photo shows the end of their love.” – Yury Ivanov

Portrait Winner: “The Trunk” by Suliman Alatiqi (Kuwait)

Phuket, Thailand

elephant

“The Trunk” by Suliman Alatiqi

Suliman Alatiqi/UPY 2023 (Kuwait)

“The elephant's trunk is one of the most distinctive anatomical features in the natural world and this photo aims to emphasize it. Luckily, he was curious about my camera and was happy to feel it out which gave me the opportunity to capture this perspective despite otherwise bad conditions for an over-under photo (choppy water and poor visibility). In my first attempts, the nostrils were not fully lit because of how close they were to the lens (which was necessary for the intended photographic effect). So I returned at a specific time window when I thought the sun’s angle would be optimal and managed to fully light the nostrils. This added a lot more detail to the key part of the image without which the photo would not be as effective.” – Suliman Alatiqi

Save Our Seas Foundation Marine Conservation Photographer of the Year 2023 Winner: “Hopeless” by Alvaro Herrero (Spain)

Baja California, Mexico

whale

“Hopeless” by Alvaro Herrero

Alvaro Herrero/UPY 2023 (Spain)

“A humpback whale dies a slow, painful and agonizing death after having its tail entangled in a ropes and buoys, rendering its tail completely useless. A reflection of what not only our oceans are suffering, but also our planet, the product of man's selfishness and lack of responsibility. Taking this photograph was, for me, the saddest moment I've experienced in the ocean. Especially because I have spent so much time with humpbacks underwater, experiencing eye contact, interactions, and seeing with my own eyes how they are sentient and intelligent beings. But I'm 'happy' to being able to capture that moment and show the world what is happening, what we are doing. I really hope this image make us aware , open our eyes and drive us in to make real changes.” – Alvaro Herrero

Black & White Winner: “El Blanco – The White One” by Don Silcock (Australia)

Península Valdés, Argentina

whale photos

“El Blanco – The White One” by Don Silcock

Don Silcock/UPY 2023 (Australia)

“The image was taken on the last morning of a five-day trip to Peninsula Valdés in Argentina, in August 2022, under a special permit to enter the water with the Southern Right Whales that gather there between June and December each year. The mother, who can be seen in the background, accepted our presence and allowed the calf to interact with us. It was very playful but careful not to hit us with its tail and seemed to be really enjoying it all – almost as much as we were! White calves are very rare and referred to locally as 'El Blanco' or the white one!

Peninsula Valdés is an incredibly important safe haven and breeding ground for the Southern Right Whales of the southern Atlantic and Argentina has done an excellent job of managing it. It was, without doubt, my best ever underwater experience!” – Don Silcock

Compact Winner: “Klunzinger's Wrasse In Motion” by Enrico Somogyi (Germany)

Marsa Alam, Egypt

underwater photography

“Klunzinger's Wrasse In Motion” by Enrico Somogyi

Enrico Somogyi/UPY 2023 (Germany)

“When I was snorkeling in Marsa Alam I saw countless Klunzinger's Wrasses. One of them was particularly curious and very interested in my lens. I was able to take some good classic wide angle pictures. After a while I figured it would be a good idea to try a long exposure. So I set my camera to the smallest aperture f11, the ISO value to 64 and the exposure time to 1/13s. For this picture, I moved the camera forward a bit while the shutter was released. This created the zoom effect in the lower part of the image. I was very happy with the result.” – Enrico Somogyi

Macro Winner: "Unsung" by Shane Gross (Canada)

Location: Vancouver Island, Canada

baby fish photograph

“Unsung” by Shane Gross

Shane Gross/UPY 2023 (Canada)

“Walking along a rocky shoreline we would peer under rocks using a probe lens and my camera's LCD screen to check for plainfin midshipman nests. Once found I would lay on top of the barnacle-covered rocks, cutting my elbows, trying to compose images of fish most people have never heard of despite having one of the most interesting lifecycles of any animal. Plainfin midshipman are deep water fish that travel to the intertidal zone to spawn. The males sing to attract females and she will lay as many eggs as his singing deserves before moving on to the next singer. Now, the male has a chance to fertilize the eggs, but only if he is not beaten to the punch by a sneaker male who looks like a female. The singer male will then guard the nest never knowing the kids may not be his. Drama!” – Shane Gross

There are even more incredible images swimming around on the UPY website. You can even download a free yearbook featuring all the winning images and their captivating stories here.


Time travel back to 1905.

Back in 1905, a book called "The Apples of New York" was published by the New York State Department of Agriculture. It featured hundreds of apple varieties of all shapes, colors, and sizes, including Thomas Jefferson's personal favorite, the Esopus Spitzenburg.






Keep ReadingShow less

Joey Grundl, Milwaukee pizza guy.

Joey Grundl, a pizza delivery driver for a Domino's Pizza in Waldo, Wisconsin, is being hailed as a hero for noticing a kidnapped woman's subtle cry for help.

The delivery man was sent to a woman's house to deliver a pie when her ex-boyfriend, Dean Hoffman, opened the door. Grundl looked over his shoulder and saw a middle-aged woman with a black eye standing behind Hoffman. She appeared to be mouthing the words: "Call the police."

Keep ReadingShow less
via PixaBay

Being an adult is tough.

Nothing can ever fully prepare you for being an adult. Once you leave childhood behind, the responsibilities, let-downs and setbacks come at you fast. It’s tiring and expensive, and there's no easy-to-follow roadmap for happiness and success.

A Reddit user named u/Frequent-Pilot5243 asked the online forum, “What’s an adult problem nobody prepared you for?” and there were a lot of profound answers that get to the heart of the disappointing side of being an adult.

One theme that ran through many responses is the feeling of being set adrift. When you’re a kid, the world is laid out as a series of accomplishments. You learn to walk, you figure out how to use the bathroom, you start school, you finish school, maybe you go to college, and so on.

Keep ReadingShow less
Pop Culture

Listen to this organ in Croatia that uses the sea to make hauntingly beautiful music

It's a 230-foot-long organ that turns the rhythm of the waves into actual music.


In 2005, a Croatian architect designed a 230-foot-long organ that turns the rhythm of the waves into actual music.

Nope, not nonsensical bellows or chaotic tones. Real, actual, music.

Keep ReadingShow less
Modern Families

A comic from The Oatmeal illustrates how we're missing the mark on happiness.

I do the things that are meaningful to me, even if they don't make me "happy."

By Matthew Inman/The Oatmeal. Used with permission.

How to Be Perfectly Happy


Matthew Inman is the Eisner Award-winning author of The Oatmeal. He's published six books, including New York Times Best-Sellers such as "How to Tell if Your Cat is Plotting to Kill You"and "The Terrible and Wonderful Reasons Why I Run Long Distances."He enjoys running marathons, writing comics, and eating cake.

You can read more of Matthew's comics here.

Keep ReadingShow less
Health

Sweeping UN study finds that 9 out of 10 people worldwide are biased against women

In other words, 9 out of 10 people worldwide—both men and women—are biased against women in vital areas that impact the world in major ways.

Photo by Joe Gardner on Unsplash

As the U.S. ramps into an all-too-familiar presidential election cycle where the only viable candidates left on the ballot are men, the UN announces a study that may—at least partially—explain why.

The Gender Social Norms Index released yesterday by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) offers a look at gender equality as measured by people's personal gender bias. The data, which was collected from 75 countries covering 81% of the world's population, found that 91% of men and 86% of women show at least one clear bias against women in the areas of politics, economics, education, and physical integrity.

In other words, 9 out of 10 people worldwide—both men and women—are biased against women in vital areas that impact the world in major ways. Splendid.

Keep ReadingShow less